Book Review: Peacemaker by Stewart (4 Stars)

Peacemaker by K.A. Stewart

3.5-4 out of 5 stars

Read January 2014

Publisher’s Synopsis:

Caleb Marcus is a Peacemaker, a roving lawman tasked with maintaining the peace and bringing control to magic users on the frontier. A Peacemaker isn’t supposed to take a life—but sometimes, it’s kill or be killed…

After a war injury left him half-scoured of his power, Caleb and his jackalope familiar have been shipped out West, keeping them out of sight and out of the way of more useful agents. And while life in the wild isn’t exactly Caleb’s cup of tea, he can’t deny that being amongst folk who aren’t as powerful as he is, even in his poor shape, is a bit of a relief.

But Hope isn’t like the other small towns he’s visited. The children are being mysteriously robbed of their magical capabilities. There’s something strange and dark about the local land baron who runs the school. Cheyenne tribes are raiding the outlying homesteads with increasing frequency and strange earthquakes keep shaking the very ground Hope stands on.

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Movie Review: Jesse James (1939)

Jesse James (1939)

3 out of 5 stars

One of the few color films I’ve watched since returning to the Turner Classic Movies channel.  This airing happened to be a premeire for the TCM channel, the first time they’d ever shown the film.    Released the same year as The Wizard of Oz, by a still young 20th Century Fox, Jesse James starred then leading man Tyrone Power as Jesse and Henry Fonda as his brother, Frank James.  Jesse’s love interest, played by Nancy Kelly, garnered more screen time than Henry Fonda, though.

Filmed in Missouri, but not in the James boys’ home town of Kearney, which is just on the other side of North Kansas City from where I live on the Kansas side of the metro area.  Even in the 1930s, Kearney proved to be too modern for the production, so they decided to use Pineville, in the southwestern corner of the state, near the Oklahoma and Arkansas borders.  Ah, Missouri, the only state that borders eight other states.

The treatment of the horses during this film appalled me.  I’m glad I wasn’t the only one who became outraged.  Apparently, this film proved the straw that broke the camels back: “The film gained a measure of notoriety, however, for a scene in which a horse falls to its death down a rocky slope toward the end of the film. This scene was one of many cited by the American Humane Association against Hollywood’s abuse of animals, and led to the association’s monitoring of filmmaking.” (Animal Cruelty, Jesse James Wikipedia article)

Not the best western I’ve ever watched, but not the worst either.  Fun to see so many big name actors early in their careers.  I can officially say I’ve seen a movie starring Randolph Scott now.

And that just reminded me of endless hours on summer vacation in an old van driving across the desert southwest.  My mom would pop in an eight track tape of one of her favorite bands, The Statler Brothers, and I’d here songs like this one called “Whatever Happened to Randolph Scott?”


Movie Review: The Ox-Bow Incident (1943)

The Ox-Box Incident (1943)

3.5 out of 5 stars

Another highly acclaimed western which had the misfortune of releasing the same year as Casablanca.  Not your typical western either.

I spend Sunday afternoons reviewing the upcoming schedule on TCM for likely recordable prospects for the DVR.  I also review their website and send e-mail alerts to myself if the movie I want to watch happens to be scheduled more than two weeks out (the DVR only has fourteen days with of programming at any given time).  The guide on the DVR showed a 94% approval rating and close to a five star rating for The Ox-Bow Incident, so I made sure I got it recorded.

I thought the film very well done.  All the performance appeared to be above par and it was interesting to see Harry Morgan and Anthony Quinn.  The only time I struggled to believe the character came when the letter contents were revealed to the audience.  I could not connect the dots between the man I saw protrayed and the writer of that letter.  No man about to die would write these words to his wife.  Some of them yes, but he would not philosophize to the extent presented in the movie.

Contents of letter from one victim (Martin) to his wife:

“My dear Wife, Mr. Davies will tell you what’s happening here tonight. He’s a good man and has done everything he can for me. I suppose there are some other good men here, too, only they don’t seem to realize what they’re doing. They’re the ones I feel sorry for. ‘Cause it’ll be over for me in a little while, but they’ll have to go on remembering for the rest of their lives. A man just naturally can’t take the law into his own hands and hang people without hurtin’ everybody in the world, ’cause then he’s just not breaking one law but all laws. Law is a lot more than words you put in a book, or judges or lawyers or sheriffs you hire to carry it out. It’s everything people ever have found out about justice and what’s right and wrong. It’s the very conscience of humanity. There can’t be any such thing as civilization unless people have a conscience, because if people touch God anywhere, where is it except through their conscience? And what is anybody’s conscience except a little piece of the conscience of all men that ever lived? I guess that’s all I’ve got to say except kiss the babies for me and God bless you. Your husband, Donald.”

I would have found it much more believable had everything from ‘A man just naturally can’t take the law’ to ‘that ever lived?’ had been deleted.  That whole middle section screams philosophy, not undying love for your spouse.  I’m not saying I don’t agree with the contents, I just don’t believe a dying (about to be murdered) man would write it to his wife.

Movie Review: Cowboys & Aliens (BluRay)

Cowboys & Aliens (BluRay)

4 out of 5 stars

My father lent me his BluRay of Cowboys & Aliens when he came for dinner Tuesday evening.  We would not have been able to view it via Netflix for another week or two otherwise.  After a dinner of leftovers (more ham and home-made bread), we sat down to watch the BluRay.  As usual, the combination of dinner and a movie put Terry into a food coma within thirty minutes, but Rachelle and I made it through to the credits without dozing off.

Daniel Craig did well, if stoically, as an archetypical Western character. Olivia Wilde’s performance didn’t wow me, but that’s usual for her.   I still think her best performance to be Quorra in Tron: Legacy.  I enjoyed Harrison Ford in a different type of role than what I’ve seen him do before. I also enjoyed Rockwell and Beach’s performances.

But by far my favorite, albeit not a long lived character, was rendered by Clancy Brown, who normally suffers under the stigma of villainous typecasting, this time around he stretched his wings as a gun toting man of the cloth who delivered some of the most memorable dialogue.

Overall, the movie was much better than I thought it would be and I’m sorry I skipped seeing it at the movie theater this past summer, especially after seeing the incredible cinematography (courtesy of the great state of New Mexico).  While four out of five stars might be stretching it a bit (considering the believability of the story and circumstances), I can’t say I didn’t completely enjoy my evening mash-up of two of my favorite movie genres:  westerns and scifi flicks.  The Old West has never been wilder!